Rack and Soul Review: Food prepared with precision
Cooks and chefs are just like basketball players. Individuals in both professions go through many stages in their careers. It’s more fun following basketball because the careers are defined in a short period of time. Since the NBA is ultra competitive, it is easy to follow the arc of a player’s career. In the lifetime of a fan, one could follow the entire careers of many players. At the beginning, it’s always difficult to tell who would do well. Evidence #1 is Sam Bowie. If you’re not a rabid fan of the Association and don’t know who he is, Mr. Bowie was the guy drafted ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. And all of you probably know MJ (bald guy, sick dunker, could play a little bit, etc.) Lately in a lot of draft predictions, prognosticators like to talk about “love of the game.” Who lives and breathes the game? Who loves it so much and can study the game just out of love? Who can do the work outs during the off season to improve his game. Safe to say that when history looks back on Sam Bowie, it’s a dude who didn’t love the game like Mike. All of this brings me to cooks and chefs. A common phrase is, “If’s its cooked with love, it’ll be good.” Or something like, “I want a chef who cooks with love.” When these types of phrases are spoken, it’s almost as if love existed in a pepper mill. The ‘right’ kind of cook will sprinkle it on, while the forgetful, passionless cooks would simply not use such a wonderful flavoring agent. Does this mean every plate of good food I eat is “prepared with love?” Or can great food exist without love?
The popular notion is that great food is prepared with love. Therefore love of cooking must be essential to the best cooks. Some of the most well-known chefs in the U.S. like Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Mario Batali, and the wife of current NY Governor must really love food. They are the very best, but what about the rest of the folks who cook? You could really love doing something, and still suck at it.
Take soul food for example. I had some with Steph at Rack and Soul. We had some BBQ ribs that were pretty delicious. More so than their fried chicken, which was room temperature. There’s lots of individuals all across the U.S. who love to use a smoker and barbecue meats. Those individuals are rated at all different skill levels. Does the experienced BBQ cook love the craft moreso than the beginner BBQ cook? Put it into basketball terms, we know that Kobe puts in hard work, and it has paid off. What can we say today about Blake Griffin, 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year. Is he a future Hall of Famer? Rack and Soul had good ribs, but clearly there must be shitty ribs elsewhere in the city/country/world.
There are plenty of cooks who love cooking. Plenty of basketball players who love competition. I don’t really give a fuck who ‘prepares my food with love.’ I care if the food is actually good and prepared with precision. And I want that food to be good each and every time I visit the place. (BTW, that’s why cooking is a craft and not an art. Craft is about successful reproductions of near exact replicas.) In basketball, we know the best players couple practice with unbelievable physical abilities. There’s been plenty of players with great potential in the NBA but never truly realized those potentials. So what sets them apart is the love of deliberate practice. Can’t dribble drive? Work on it all summer. Can’t shoot the outside J? Shoot 1,000 times a day. These are the activities of super-driven players and super successful players. I don’t want a cook who necessarily cooks with love at the moment of cooking my food. I want a cook who loves it so much that there’s plenty of practice put into menu planning, that failed dishes are reexamined and scrutinized, and that stepping over boundaries are ok. See you put in the practice because you really really love it. Everyone loves game time. Only the crazy loves practice. Give me good food made with precision. Who cares if it was prepared with love. Conceived with love is what it’s all about.
Rack and Soul258 W 109th St.New York, NY 10025212-222-4800
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